Kale – What’s it Good for?
Kale boosts whole-body vitality, from stronger bones and heart health to the digestive system. It’s been gaining loads of attention as one of the ‘superfoods’ we all should include in our diets.
An Ancient Vegetable Charged with Nutrients
Kale was a part of the ancient Roman diet and a popular vegetable during the Middle Ages when precious land couldn’t be wasted growing nutrient-poor crops.
It’s in the same family as Brussels sprouts, Bok-Choy, and cabbage. All of which are cruciferous vegetables rich in glucosinolates; a sulfur-based substance with remarkable health benefits (1).
A Natural Antibiotic
When you eat vegetables like kale, the glucosinolates in them are broken down by digestion into certain metabolites; substances that affect metabolism and trigger specific enzymatic reactions (2).
Glucosinolates break down into metabolites that have an affect similar to antibiotics and can ward off bacterial, fungal, and even viral infections in all parts of the body (3,4).
Two recent studies also suggest that cruciferous vegetable rich diet could reduce the risk of some cancers (5).
One analysis coordinated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reviewed 31 epidemiological studies to see if there was an association between intake of cruciferous vegetables and risk of lung cancer concluded that eating glucosinolates rich vegetables could decrease risk by 17 to 23 percent (6).
Another study by the Italian Department of Epidemiology at the Institute of Pharmacological Research reported that regular intake of cruciferous vegetables could reduce the risk of colorectal, esophageal, kidney, and breast cancer by almost 25 percent (7).
Cooking Damages Glucosinolates
However, eating a diet rich in cruciferous plants doesn’t mean that you’re actually getting most benefit from glucosinolates.
This is because cooking vegetables can destroy an enzyme called myrosinase. This enzyme is what helps convert glucosinolate into health-promoting metabolites (8).
Although cooking won’t entirely remove these benefits, it will considerably degrade them.
Ideally you want to get your kale raw to enjoy the biggest health boost.
A Nutritional Powerhouse
For starters just one cup of kale gives you over 100 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A and almost 150 percent of vitamin K for calcium metabolism and bone health (9,10).
You’ll also get two grams of protein and one gram of fiber with only about 33 calories.
Kale Lowers Cholesterol
A recent study finds that patients with high cholesterol who drank kale juice reduced their levels of LDL cholesterol by 10 percent (11).
Researchers think is because of the way kale binds to the bile acids secreted by the liver.
This binding prevents those acids from being reabsorbed so they pass out of the body instead. The body will instead rely on its stored cholesterol to replace that bile acid, reducing cholesterol levels.
Appetite Suppressant Properties
Kale and other dark leafy veggies naturally contain thylakoids. A substance discovered in the early 90s that could be used as an appetite suppressant.
Studies show that foods rich in thylakoids effectively reduced insulin levels (12). Spikes in insulin can cause blood sugar to drop, triggering hunger pangs.
Research also found that thylakoids reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, while increasing levels of leptin, a hormone that signals the brain that you’re full.
Kale Fights Inflammation
Besides being essential for bone health, vitamin K has a strong ant-inflammatory affect in the body (13) – which can help relieve symptoms of joint pain and helps maintain circulatory health.
Even better, kale has both omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidant sulforaphane that also act to significantly reduce inflammation (14,15).
Extremely High in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin crucial for health that serves many critical functions in our cells.
It’s needed to create and maintain collagen, an abundant structural protein in your skin and joints.
Much higher in this vitamin than many other vegetables, kale contains roughly 4.5 times much as the same amount of spinach (16).
As one of the best sources of vitamin C, a cup of raw kale has more vitamin C than an entire orange (17).
Kale has the Minerals You Don’t get Enough Of
Kale is high in the minerals that many people are deficient in.
It’s a fantastic source of calcium; a mineral extremely important for bone health that also plays a role in many health-critical cellular processes.
Kale is also a good source of magnesium. Most people don’t get enough of this incredibly important mineral.
Getting sufficient dietary magnesium can even be protective against heart disease and type 2 diabetes (18).
Kale contains potassium, the mineral that works to maintain proper cell function and an essential electrolyte.
Healthy potassium intake has been linked to lowered blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (19).
A big advantage kale has over other leafy greens, like spinach, is that it is low in oxalate, a substance some plants have that can block essential minerals from being absorbed in the body (20).
The Next Level Difference
I know how difficult it can be to eat kale every single day and that is why we included 500 mg at 5:1 concentrate (equivalent to 2,500 mg) in our Next Level Superfoods Multivitamin!
- Johnson IT. Glucosinolates: bioavailability and importance to health. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2002 Jan;72(1):26-31 – Link
- Ishida M, Hara M, Fukino N, Kakizaki T, Morimitsu Y. Glucosinolate metabolism, functionality and breeding for the improvement of Brassicaceae vegetables. Breed Sci. 2014;64(1):48–59. doi:10.1270/jsbbs.64.48 – Link
- Borges A, Abreu AC, Ferreira C, Saavedra MJ, Simões LC, Simões M. Antibacterial activity and mode of action of selected glucosinolate hydrolysis products against bacterial pathogens. J Food Sci Technol. 2014;52(8):4737–4748. doi:10.1007/s13197-014-1533-1 – Link
- Calmes B, N’Guyen G, Dumur J, et al. Glucosinolate-derived isothiocyanates impact mitochondrial function in fungal cells and elicit an oxidative stress response necessary for growth recovery. Front Plant Sci. 2015;6:414. Published 2015 Jun 3. doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00414 – Link
- Higdon JV, Delage B, Williams DE, Dashwood RH. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007;55(3):224–236. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.009 – Link
- Lam TK, Gallicchio L, Lindsley K, et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption and lung cancer risk: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18(1):184–195. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0710 – Link
- C. Bosetti, M. Filomeno, P. Riso, J. Polesel, F. Levi, R. Talamini, M. Montella, E. Negri, S. Franceschi, C. La Vecchia, Cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk in a network of case–control studies, Annals of Oncology, Volume 23, Issue 8, August 2012, Pages 2198–2203 – Link
- Song L, Thornalley PJ. Effect of storage, processing and cooking on glucosinolate content of Brassica vegetables. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Feb;45(2):216-24. Epub 2006 Aug 30 – Link
- National Institutes of Health. Vitamin K – Link
- Rasmussen HM, Johnson EJ. Nutrients for the aging eye. Clin Interv Aging. 2013;8:741–748. doi:10.2147/CIA.S45399 – Link
- Kim SY1, Yoon S, Kwon SM, Park KS, Lee-Kim YC. Kale juice improves coronary artery disease risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men. Biomed Environ Sci. 2008 Apr;21(2):91-7. doi: 10.1016/S0895-3988(08)60012-4 – Link
- Köhnke R1, Lindqvist A, Göransson N, Emek SC, Albertsson PA, Rehfeld JF, Hultgårdh-Nilsson A, Erlanson-Albertsson C. Thylakoids suppress appetite by increasing cholecystokinin resulting in lower food intake and body weight in high-fat fed mice. Phytother Res. 2009 Dec;23(12):1778-83. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2855 – Link
- Harshman SG, Shea MK. The Role of Vitamin K in Chronic Aging Diseases: Inflammation, Cardiovascular Disease, and Osteoarthritis. Curr Nutr Rep. 2016;5(2):90–98. doi:10.1007/s13668-016-0162-x – Link
- Kim JK, Park SU. Current potential health benefits of sulforaphane. EXCLI J. 2016;15:571–577. Published 2016 Oct 13. doi:10.17179/excli2016-485 – Link
- Zivkovic AM, Telis N, German JB, Hammock BD. Dietary omega-3 fatty acids aid in the modulation of inflammation and metabolic health. Calif Agric (Berkeley). 2011;65(3):106–111. doi:10.3733/ca.v065n03p106 – Link
- Self Nutrition Data – Link
- Alejandro Becerra-Moreno, Pedro A. Alanís-Garza, José Luis Mora-Nieves, Juan Pablo Mora-Mora & Daniel A. Jacobo-Velázquez (2014) Kale: An excellent source of vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, lutein and glucosinolates, CyTA – Journal of Food, 12:3, 298-303 – Link
- Helmut Geiger, Christoph Wanner, Magnesium in disease, Clinical Kidney Journal, Volume 5, Issue Suppl_1, February 2012, Pages i25–i38 – Link
- D’Elia L1, Barba G, Cappuccio FP, Strazzullo P. Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Mar 8;57(10):1210-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2010.09.070 – Link 20. C.M. WEAVER R.P. HEANEY K.P. NICKEL P.I. PACKARD. Calcium Bioavailability from High Oxalate Vegetables: Chinese Vegetables, Sweet Potatoes and Rhubarb. Journal of Food Science Volume62, Issue3, May 1997, Pages 524-525 – Link